Radical Transparency

It’s a phrase I’d been seeing in random places… co-working facilities, start-up gatherings, experimental social groups and in stories about the on-going political uprising happening in Spain — radical transparency.

Radical transparency is a phrase used across fields of governance, politics, software design and business to describe actions and approaches that radically increase the openness of organizational process and data. Its usage was originally understood as an approach or act that uses abundant networked information to access previously confidential organizational process or outcome data.

Source: Radical transparency — Wikipedia

Usually the term seems like a nice bit of aromatic philosophy, but rarely something you can sink your teeth into.

But then, while working on the signup and profile system for our new website, I noticed something on the support site for the WordPress plugin we’re using — a modest link titled Open Metrics. A combination of late-night burnout and random curiosity led me to click the link.

I was startled to discover what I found there — a live grid of sales, revenue and purchasing statistics for what is undoubtedly the best membership plugin for WordPress yet developed.

Daily, monthly and all-time revenue… the number of customers and how much they’d purchased… all statistics updating in real-time across my screen.

Scanning back up to the top of the page, the sub-heading revealed their philosophy — “we’re passionate about running an open and transparent business.”

And there it was before me… actual, measurable facts and figures about the financial status of a seemingly for-profit enterprise.

Startling.

Finally a WordPress plugin developer (using a common model of free basic functionality and upgrades for advanced features) openly and honestly declaring how much money they’ve earned selling paid extensions.

While many claim allegiance to the concept of openness and transparency in business, a new rallying cry in a world weighed down by secrecy, bureaucracy and deceit, this was the first example I’d seen of such brazen honesty.

Looking at their “all time revenue” totals, I knew my $149 was in there. While I’d already been thrilled by the thought and detail that went into development of their plugin, was already pleased by their fantastic customer support and openness to new ideas and suggestions, I could never have imagined being allowed to peak behind the curtain to view such detailed financial metrics.

Simply put, a surprise beyond all expectations. But even more than that, inspiration for the long road ahead of us.

At Resonate, our mission is to build a streaming and download system that runs as a co-operative, where musicians and fans all share in the ownership of the platform, experience democratic decision-making and get to directly benefit from its success. Seeing a start-up such as Ultimate Member willing to boldly stand up and be counted has been incredibly inspiring for a business that aims for a similar level of transparency, saying goodbye to the back room deals and secret negotiations of our competitors.

When I started writing this blog post Ultimate Member had earned $191 for the day. As I now wrap up, that number has risen to $477.

Somehow, in this small gesture, I’ve seen that another world IS possible and I look forward to the day when someone else stumbles onto our site and finds a similar willingness towards openness and transparency. That our mission to be an honest alternative in a world dominated by secret negotiations that benefit the elite won’t be just an empty marketing slogan, but a statement backed up by facts and figures, just as Ultimate Member has done.

Kudos to them and cheers to anyone else doing the same. (Comment if you know of other examples!)

This post originally appeared on Resonate.is.

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